A Fragment on Government: And An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation

A Fragment on Government: And An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation

A Fragment on Government: And An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation

A Fragment on Government: And An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation

Excerpt

Jeremy Bentham was born on February 15th, 1748, into a well-to-do middle-class and Tory family of some standing in the City of London. Jeremiah Bentham, his father, was the son of a lawyer of Jacobite sympathies, the grandson of a prosperous pawnbroker, and a lawyer himself; he had interests in real property and was Clerk of the Scriveners' Company. Jeremiah Bentham went against his parents' wishes in marrying the daughter of an Andover tradesman; but he was otherwise orthodox: Jeremy was to practise law and enhance further the family's property and standing, and his education was planned accordingly. While he was still at home he was placed under masters in dancing, drawing, French and music; he went to Westminster School in 1755 and to Queen's College, Oxford, in 1760, was entered at Lincoln's Inn in 1763, and called to the Bar in 1769. Delicate, nervous, and precocious, however, he had shown from early years both intellectual and temperamental waywardness: he retained an interest in language and music, but before he was twelve he had (according to his own account) found an ideal of character in Fénelon Télémaque, and, after reading about some protracted legal proceedings lie had vowed war against the 'Daemon of Chicane.' At twelve, when he was admitted to Queen's, he had scruples about signing the Thirty-Nine Articles; while at Queen's he developed an interest in natural science. When he was in chambers he conducted scientific experiments, and, instead of preparing for legal practice, spent his time considering the defects of the existing legal system and of current legal thought. At twenty he had decided his vocation: he would provide a foundation for scientific jurisprudence and legislation.

The whole of Bentham's unusually long working life was governed by this decision. The outlines of a massive programme were already in his mind before the publication of the Fragment on Government in . . .

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